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Havoc fine hangs over Sahara

New Delhi, Oct. 15: Air Sahara could be fined heavily for letting one of its aircraft, which overshot the runway at Mumbai airport last week and got stuck in the slush, stay parked there for four days, delaying about 500 flights.

But aviation experts said that the state-run Airport Authority of India (AAI), which is considering fining the private airline, itself had a part of the responsibility to remove the Boeing 737-400.

AAI officials said that meetings had been held with civil aviation ministry officials and the government might fine Air Sahara for letting the aircraft play havoc with the airport schedule for 82 hours, forcing other airlines to delay or cancel flights.

Air Sahara officials, who said they had not been contacted by the government on the subject, pointed out that the airline had hired another state-run aviation company 'Air-India’s engineering wing ' to remove the plane. Air-India had, in turn, hired railway workers to help with the job.

The wet ground and the railway workers’ reluctance to work during the festive season, however, made the Air-India engineers’ job difficult, sources said.

But aviation experts argued that this did not exonerate either AAI, Air Sahara or Air-India for their failure to deal with the situation in time.

“In no major international airport would such a situation have been allowed to persist,” said Capt. S.S. Panesar, former director (safety) with Indian Airlines.

“The AAI, Sahara and its contractors ' Air-India ' are equally responsible.

“Frankly speaking, it’s difficult to fine either Sahara or its contractors because it’s as much the AAI’s job to remove obstructions from runways. They could have asked Sahara to pay the charges for removing their aircraft and done the job when Air-India engineering was unable to do it quickly.”

The Air Sahara flight from Calcutta had belly-landed and overshot the runway on October 9 ' an incident that the AAI report to the ministry said was “purely due to the mistake of the pilot of the aircraft”.

The responsibility for the error, however, can be fixed only after the mandatory inquiry by the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), the regulator for the sector, is completed. The DGCA, incidentally, had a flight inspector on board the aircraft that got stuck.

“The aircraft was maintaining higher speed; it was unable to maintain the normal descent profile for a safe landing... (and consequently) could not touch down at the designated landing point,” the AAI report said.

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